Preparing for the Future, by Looking into the Past
So why do we love retros so much?
For the ones not yet familiar with the concept of retros - a short recap: a retrospective, or retro, is a session held at the end of every sprint (mostly every two weeks). Typically, each session spans an hour and a half, where each team discusses the past sprint. During these meetings each member discusses what went well, what could improve, and what they struggled with during the sprint in question.
Beyond covering these basic topics, retros give the opportunity for team members to really share what is on their mind, and usually they include some type of team building exercise. While they are a part of work, they are also fun and enjoyable.
The first retro at Analyse² took place in 2007 and at the time of writing this, the 308th sprint is taking place, so hundreds of sprints and retros have already occured. Working with Scrum/Agile methodology is now the industry standard, therefore having sprints and retros does not make us special, so let us take a look at what does make us stand out.
Getting down to the details
They say repetition creates the master and we surely have become experts in what is required to take full advantage of retros. Analysers understand the importance of retros, and most would agree that they are an essential part of working life at Analyse².
Retros allow teams to build trust and provide a safe environment for team members to mention everything on their minds. Or as one team leader, Satu, puts it, “get all the cats out on the table.”* One exceptionally large and valuable benefit to this is that there are no big surprises in the long run. While there might be some small hiccups, retros allow us to solve them quickly and efficiently.
What makes us superior?
While we have earned our stripes through repetition, we also understand a few essential components that impact the ability for retros to remain relevant and useful. These following components create the foundation of our retros:
Trust and respect
- Team members (and leaders) must trust and respect each other, their feelings, and their opinions. This way they can be open about their concerns and how they are feeling in all circumstances. Trust and respect lead to honesty.
- This also includes trusting the process and that retros are important and useful.
- Without honesty, retros become useless. The entire process requires honesty and sharing.
- One especially important task for team leaders is to ensure that retros are providing value for their team members. They are a routine, but not just a routine. They need to feel like time well spent. If they do not provide any value, no one would want to partake.
- It is essential to understand that everyone is different. Especially when it comes to communication styles, personality, ways of working, and beyond. Understanding how these differences play a role in teamwork helps to ensure that each team member feels not just listened to, but truly heard.
Every retro is unique
- There must be the possibility for retros to have some variation. While this does ensure that retros remain interesting for team members, there are other reasons behind this. One reason is that retros need to be adjusted for each team and the current situation at hand. They also need to be able to change perspectives.
One of our team leaders Mathias, states nicely about retros, “They are a safe space for anyone to have an impact on how we work and how the company operates.”
Retros allow us to be fully prepared for the future, to adapt, to overcome, and to thrive together.
*This is the Finnish version “Nostetaan kissa pöydälle” of the phrase: "let the cat out of the bag."